(NewsNation) — The U.S. Army is falling back on an old advertising strategy to help inspire a new generation of recruits, hoping Gen Z will respond to the ’80s and ’90s era slogan.
The rebrand is aimed at thinning out the gap left last year when the Army failed to sign up enough recruits, falling short of its goal by 15,000 soldiers. It’s the most severe recruiting challenge the Army has seen since the end of the draft in 1973.
Despite a noticeable lack of female soldiers, they were everything you’d want in a military ad — jumping out of helicopters, hopping aboard tanks and an all-American homecoming to mom and dad on the tarmac.
In the two decades the Army used the “Be All You Can Be” slogan, the branch greatly increased the number and quality of its recruits. This year, it’s hoping the slogan will work its magic yet again.
In 2022, the military fell short of its recruitment goals in every branch but the Marines and Space Force. The Army was down 15,000 soldiers, a 25% deficiency.
A recent Pentagon study found 77% percent of young Americans are unfit for service without a waiver due to weight, drug use or other physical or mental health reasons.
Army recruiting challenges:
- 50% of youth admit knowing little to nothing about the military
- 71% of youth don’t qualify for service
- Only 1% of the United States population currently serves
NewsNation’s Markie Martin stood outside a Dallas-area recruitment office with Capt. Tre Brown. He says there’s just not the familiarity with the military there once was. And post-COVID-19, the Army is rebuilding from the ground up.
“It’s just not resonating because they don’t think there’s the benefit for them in the long run. People want to build a life and a career they enjoy, and they’re just not familiar with what we do necessarily,” Brown said.
If the Army is going to bring back the “Be All You Can Be” campaign, it’s going to have to be reinvented.
Wendy Melillo is a journalism professor at American University who focuses on how strategic communication influences society and media. She says the Army is now targeting Gen Z, and it’s going to have to reprise the campaign with a modern twist.
“The Army has to do a better job of making serving in the military and serving our country more relevant to this particular age group,” Melillo said. “The aspirational nature of that message is very clear. So making it then relevant to that Gen Z’s life is the next connection the Army has to make.”
Katherine Kuzminski, with the Center for a New American Security said while previous generations may have been drawn to service by financial incentives and the opportunity to learn skills that could serve them in the future, Gen Z is different.
“When we look at Gen Z, they’re really motivated by a sense of mission and purpose. They want to work for an organization that shares their values, and they want to have a lot of experiences within the same employer,” she said.
Kuzminski also recognized that the COVID-19 delayed some big decision making for Gen Z, including decisions about what to do after high school, and military enlistment may see some recovery as they catch up.
The lack of qualified youth isn’t new, Kuzminski told NewsNation, and the challenge for military recruiters is finding those that are both fit to serve and interested.
“Those who are eligible has been low, what has been a real change is those who have a propensity to serve or who are interested in serving,” she said.